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New Vt. stormwater regulations come with hefty price tag

(WCAX)
Published: Nov. 13, 2019 at 4:56 PM EST
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Vermont environmental officials are working on new stormwater permits to help curb the amount of phosphorus going into Lake Champlain, but the cost of implementing the new rules is raising eyebrows of land owners and businesses across the state.

Sugarbush Resort in Warren is just days away from opening for the season. But along with the seasonal boost in revenue come concerns about a new stormwater permit that could cost them big bucks. They're not alone.

"We're looking at a per site cost between $200,000 ranging up to $4 million, and that's just an estimate, so the cost to treat could be even higher than that," said Molly Mahar, president of the Vermont Ski Association.

Officials say thenew stormwater permits aim to bring systems from before 2002 up to snuff. Land owners with over three-acres of impervious surface -- like roofs and parking lots -- will have to pay up to $50000 an acre for new systems which let stormwater soak into the ground.

For ski resorts, this applies to lodges, chair lift towers and maintenance roads. Mahar estimates that collectively, ski resorts in the Lake Champlain basin could pay upwards of $16 million dollars.

Around 9,000 property owners across the state including quarries, schools and residential developments will have to comply with the Act 64 rules which werepassed by the Legislature in 2015.

"Developed lands contributes about 20 percent of the phosphorus load to the lake. For comparison, agriculture is about 40 percent and wastewater treatment plants are about three percent," said Padric Monks with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

Officials say the state is looking into helping fund the work on some sites, starting with schools. "It's a concern, and again, how best to get technical and financial assistance to properties like that is at the forefront of our planning right now," Monks said.

In the meantime, for the ski industry and hundreds of other businesses, the clock is ticking to get up to compliance. "It's going to take an all-in effort to make sure our water in the state is clean and it's going to be expensive," Mahar said.

The state hopes to finalize and the permit rules by the end of the year. Property owners will have until 2028 to get up to compliance.